Looking Through Glass Houses

Ever since I peeped at Philip Johnson’s glass house in New Canan, I have wondered how really comfortable it was to live there.  How would one do a glass house nowadays?  What kind of site is required to justify the expanse of glass?  How tall a glass wall would I have before thinking it’s too much?

The first thing to consider is where the glass wall should be gracing.  While it is obvious that most glass houses would save the expanse of glass for the living areas, one might think that circulation areas such as stairwells are as conducive to having a glass surrounding.  The view out from inside should dictate how much glass to dedicate to.  Where the view is 360 degrees is where we find our glass houses.




The shape of the glass house. Is it always box?  Thinking back the original glass houses- the conservatories-  They took on the most elaborate shapes with curving roof lines, intricate roof shapes and patterns.  The Crystal Palace had a barrel vault central space.  How ingeniously done, Mr Paxton.



The modern glass houses however are mainly squarish and rectangular in shape.  There is something quite poetic in the simplicity of glass cubes or rectangular boxes.  The focus is then on the glass when the shape is “nothing to write home about”.

Before Philip Johnson’s Glass House, we also have the Barcelona Pavillion and the  Farnsworth house by Mies van der Rohe.  Both buildings explored the absence of walls – the first was about continuity of spaces while the second was more about non confinement of spirits.93b12f2349a7f93b6e21ed37286baf1b

Projekt: Farnsworth House Architekt: Mies van der Rohe



Some glass houses add on roofs for practicality as well as for giving them a more homey image.

55ca2eee2efef713bc77eefc66804ac8ad538439b7c6aba958d652175efbf21321fb4bb6eaeef7cdc536a4d9bb1a5db1132a8d376d4f123403e213d32477af9fThe deconstructed house look.

Sometimes,  a large  flat roof overhang would do to keep the house looking throroughly modern while keeping mundane things like water out of the picture…9e507b0e8089d9364c7ca7022ed4f468b44023109cdbeb0f6fd888e27d4b66f5

A curved roof cures it all.  After all, curved roofs lend themselves to modern homes quite well especially when they are of one generous swoop.


The division of glass is where most efforts are concentrated as we can’t have too large a sheet of glass.  Working with the curtain wall pattern is never more crucial.

90fdd90aba2c98498fc4af66ef41b65fOne can go seamless.

417e93ee647b499ddac4a5418fdf3e52Banding can be so attractive.

4fdc410e696c4c90c89486c03a2d2a05A simple grid would do.

988011865b53bba4a6f60eb980d52992Horizontal slats in various spacing are quite effective.

The issue of privacy. One can compose the facade with a few solid blocked walls for private rooms such as bathrooms.


c5dde5c8caa13f21512f4e580a5555d5Use horizontal slats where transparency is not relished.

6234ebd666d0f1d6b116a635a7c68840Privacies afforded on a lower floor.

7fface0e57e32310530da6e15a9bc77dTake it further- Privacies on the lower plinth.

5f236ce79f2a1729ad1e3a14136603e1Movable screens are another solution to the question of privacy.

294849cff4bccbd0872b4a0c26eb0ed1Philip Johnson had an inner circular core saved for the bathroom.

Any glass house worth its glass should have a view to kill for – otherwise having glass would have been a moot point.  The view from inside should explain it all.




If  only we could live in absolute transparency, forever forego subterfuge and embrace clarity…



Why ever not?

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